The Johnny Hodges-Wild Bill Davis Project, Vol. 4. BLUE HODGE (LP). This out-of-print LP (which has not yet been reissued on CD) is the earliest of several matchups between altoist Johnny Hodges and organist Wild Bill Davis. With the assistance of Les Spann on guitar and flute, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes, Hodges and Davis mostly stick to fresh material, including three then-recent originals by Gary McFarland. Highlights include "Azure Te," "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream" and "There Is No Greater Love," in addition to some swinging blues.
It might not appear like an obvious hotbed of contemporary music, but amid the rolling cornfields of western Michigan, at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Bill Ryan has been masterfully cultivating the GVSU New Music Ensemble. And with RETURN, the group's fourth album, Ryan is reaping what he has sewn since founding the ensemble in 2006: All 15 works were composed by his former students.
Although he never seems to win any popularity polls, Bill Holman is among the most respected and unique arrangers of the last 40 years of the 20th century. This CD features his band of the mid-'90s, an outfit that includes many of the top Los Angeles-based musicians. Holman's writing is often colorfully overcrowded (rewarding repeated listenings) yet logical, with the charts progressing and developing from beginning to end rather than repeating the same basic ideas continuously.
Bill Carrothers (born in Minneapolis, 1964) began his career as a teenager, when he played with local bands in his hometown; then in 1988, he moved to New York City. Carrothers has played many venues throughout the U. S. and Europe including the Village Gate, Knitting Factory, Birdland, Blues Alley, New Morning (Paris), the Audi Jazz Festival in Brussels, the Nevers Jazz Festival (where he shared the bill with Abbey Lincoln), the Montreal Jazz Festival , Jazz Middelheim, and the Marciac Festival in France. At his last album Love and longing (2013, La Buisonne) Carrothers proofs his singing is of high level.
PA-born pianist Degen has a hell of a resume: in the 60's, he lived in Germany, playing with expatriates Art Farmer & Leo Wright, returned to the USA where he had a trio with Paul Motian & Gary Peacock (unrecorded) and played in Buddy DeFranco's Glenn Miller Band, then returned to Germany & joined Albert Mangelsdorf's group. In '97, he braved Brooklyn to make this fine trio date. The easiest way to sum up Degen's style is a cross between early-to-mid-'70s Bill Evans with late 60's / early '70s McCoy Tyner: full-bodied, two-handed sound and consistently lyrical without ever being predictable. He's at his most Evans-esque on "Ode to Sammy Davis Jr." and recalls Herbie Nichols on "Round Trip". Formanek rules, playing Scott Lafaro to Degen's Evans (though neither are mere knock-offs).